In life, some things are simply ‘written’; Seth Haapu being destined for a life in music is one of these things. The first signs could be seen at the tender age of eight, where he was already utilising a pair of cassette players to record harmonies for his earliest song writing efforts. Fast-forward to present day, and the mastering of multiple instruments, and he’s still at it. Now though, the cassette players have been replaced by the mixing desks of Neil Finn’s infamous Roundhead studios; the result being his self-titled debut album.
For the musical wunderkind, born in Whanganui around the sounds of Michael Jackson, The Beatles and Elvis Presley, music has always come naturally. Haapu began uploading his work online whilst living in Sydney which garnered strong industry attention and a solid fanbase. A contract with Sony Music New Zealand sealed the deal, followed by a return to his homeland and support slots with international names including Adam Lambert and Train and local legends Crowded House, Stellar* and Supergroove.
Haapu’s debut album is set for release on August 8th. On its formation, Haapu says “During the writing process I really went back to being a kid in the 90’s listening to old school music from the 1950’s - 1970’s. I loaded my iPod up with retro songs and a few current Top 40 hits and that’s what I listened to for months”.
“I noticed how a lot of artists like Bob Dylan sang about the truths of humanity; their ability to connect with society through songs of hope, fun, love, anger and peace. I guess that we all have emotions in common and I really wanted to sing about them all. I loved hearing the musicality of The Beatles and on the other hand I appreciated hearing the slick production and strong melodies of pop music today”.
Self-producing his record was a natural step for Seth. Layering instruments to create a textured, elaborate sound and a hands-on approach to creating music has seen him contributing everything from the usual guitars and keys to harpsichord, percussion, computer programming, backing vocals, and – in true modernist fashion – the iPhone.
However, it wasn’t a singular effort, as Haapu notes. “Nick Gaffaney (Cairo Knife Fight), Godfrey DeGrut (Che Fu) and Chip Matthews (Opensouls) played on the record. There was a great diversity among us that when put together sounded like something fresh. Neil Baldock was another key figure in the making of the album, acting as sound and mixing engineer on several tracks. Other songs were given a unique mix by [Grammy winning mixer and producer] Bob “Bassy” Brockman (Christina Aguilera, Usher, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin).
The result is something truly unique, encompassing melancholic laments to retro-tinged rhythms; from whimsical keyboard arrangements to full blown pop. The album opens with introduction ‘Hurly Burly’ – “a song about the tumult and commotion in our world today; the ever-increasing growth of technology, the reshaping of society, natural disasters and the swell in pop culture.
Following this comes current single Owe You Nothing, written around the idea of “self belief being up in arms with doubt”, and upbeat single Stereotype, which opens up to new ideas and celebrating differences.
Other album highlights include “Trashing My Heart”, described as “a fun take on my plea to rekindle the romance when the relationship hits a low point.” and introductory single “Bones”, “a call to bring someone out of a negative past and into a better future”.
Of the music on his debut album Seth says “I want my music to do for others what music did for me when I was growing up. The songs that make up my record were inspired by life lived and observed”.
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